This was our first time on Royal Caribbean, our 8th cruise overall. Prior to this, we've cruised on DIsney and NCL. Our group included a tween, a teen, mid-40s and two active seniors. We stayed at the Residence Inn at the port. The hotel, while they have a shuttle, recommended a cab. The cost was $15 for all of us. Embarkation was very smooth and fast. We arrived about 11:30 and only waited in line about 5 minutes at the most.
The positives: the rooms were clean and had good storage. We had a mini-suite and a balcony stateroom. The balcony room didn't have any hair conditioner or lotion, which is an amenity we expect even from a mid-level hotel. Our luggage was delivered to the balcony room very early, around 2. But the mini-suite room did not have their luggage yet at dinner time. It was there by 7pm, although one suitcase was open in the hallway. Overall, the food was okay. Our main waiter in the Galileo dining room, Shahid, was outstanding. He remembered our children's names and even what they had ordered for dinner the previous nights. We ate in Chops Grill and Portofino. Both were average.
The Bahamas port was cancelled due to high waves. Made for a bit too many sea days (4). We did an excursion in St. Thomas (5-Star Island) that was sub-par and that is generous. Our tour guide, Lamar, barely spoke, told us nothing about the island or the sights, and steared the 4 very drunk people on our open air "bus" to every available liquor outlet. They got more and more obnoxious as the tour went on. On St Maarten, we booked a day tour through Bernard's Tours. We had DJ Dave as our guide. It was like night and day the difference between our 2 tours. DJ had stocked the air conditioned van with complimentary rum punch, soft drinks and water. He told us all about the island and took us to many beautiful places. Book with Bernard's!!
The pool area never felt too crowded and usually we were able to get multiple chairs together one deck up from the pool. The ship itself was easy to navigate. The shopping was definitely better than on DIsney and NCL. More merchandise and name brands. The promenade area is nicely set up. Ben and Jerry's, Sorrento's pizza, Starbuck's and the Cupcakery. All was an additional charge with the exception of the pizza place. Another casual restaurant would have been nice in place of the pub--or if the pub served food.
The negatives: No itinerary was delivered to the rooms to let us know the times of of my time dining, spa, specialty restaurant reservations. Every cruise I've been on previously has put a note outside our door. I tried calling the my time number, repeatedly, but the phone was never answered. The spa pushed the products was too hard. All through the 3 treatments I received all I heard about was how good their facial products were. One spa employee even told me she knew more about skin care than my dermatologist and that I should discontinue using the products prescribed by him to purchase the ones she was selling. Not very relaxing. The manicure and pedicure I which I had paid for online where quick and perfunctory. The 14 day no chip manicure was already peeling the same night I received it. I did not go back to see if it could be fixed as I just did not want to deal with the whole spa at all.
The Flowrider. We had pre-paid online for 2 Flowrider lessons. The first day on the ship, we received a message that due to a glitch in the online scheduling, their lessons needed to be rescheduled and to come to the Flowrider to change this in person rather than try to call. Try to schedule we did. Over and over. Finally got someone at the Flowrider desk--given a lesson time of 7am... Well, that was still feeling like 4am our time as we live in Pacific Standard time. Tried another time--nothing doing. Never did get the lessons.
Very little in way of entertainment. We saw the ice show and singing act. We all were used to more entertainment options/times. The children did not use the teen/children's clubs at all.
We all disembarked very early, bringing our bags due to early flights. It went quickly and smoothly. We caught a cab to the airport and had no problem making a 9:25am flight.